AUGUSTA — There were no surprises when the Skowhegan and Messalonskee girls basketball teams met in the regional tournament on Tuesday night. For the Eagles, that spelled a certain exit from the postseason.

Undefeated and top-seeded Skowhegan turned their full-court pressure into easy first-half basket after easy first-half basket, piling up a big early lead which turned into a 58-37 victory of Messalonskee in the Class A North semifinals at the Augusta Civic Center.

Skowhegan (20-0), which swept its three meetings with Messalonskee this season by an average margin of victory of better than 22 points, will meet No. 2 Hampden Academy in Friday’s regional final.

“Everything’s different during playoffs,” said Skowhegan point guard Sydney Ames, who finished with eight points and seven rebounds. “Anyone can win, no matter what the scores were during the (regular) season. We just try to move on to the next one.”

Led by senior Annie Cooke’s double-double — 18 points and 11 rebounds — and 17 points from freshman Jaycie Christopher, Skowhegan simply provided far too many options for the Eagles to cover.

If it wasn’t Cooke inside, Christopher on the perimeter or Ames’ ability to dribble-drive, then it was relentless full-court pressure forcing Messalonskee into 23 turnovers and easy transition points.

“I think everyone had a sense of urgency, honestly,” Cooke said. “We lost to them last year in the semifinals, and we kind of wanted revenge.”

“We kind of had prepped for that and knew it was coming, but knowing it and being able to stop that kind of length and athleticism is difficult,” Messalonskee coach Keith Derosby said. “They ran things the way we expected things to go. That’s why they’re undefeated.”

Unlike in their tournament opener against Camden Hills on Friday, Skowhegan showed little in the way of jitters in the first quarter Tuesday. After Gabrielle Wener (11 points) scored just 11 seconds into the game to give Messalonskee its only lead, the Indians scored the next 21 points  to build a 21-3 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter.

A 9-0 Messalonskee run midway through the period helped cut into that Eagle deficit, but a Christopher 3-pointer put an exclamation point on Skowhegan’s first half.

“I felt our energy level was up there tonight. Defensively, we got after it,” Skowhegan coach Mike LeBlanc said. “I thought Sydney brought the pressure early and made some key baskets for us and really upped our energy a lot. That’s been missing the last couple of games.”

Skowhegan led by as many as 21 in the third quarter. Cooke scored 11 of her 18 points in the second half, routinely making her presence felt in the paint to cement the victory — either with offensive rebounds (seven) or points at the foul line (eight).

“When she’s on, she’s on because you can’t guard her,” LeBlanc said. “If you’re big, you’re probably going to be slower than she is and she can take you off the dribble. If you’re smaller than she is, she can go over you.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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